June 9, 2010

Students Debate Resolution That Prohibits Discrimination

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Last Spring, the Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship asked Chris Donohoe ’09 to step down from a leadership position after he openly embraced his homosexuality.What began as one student’s protest grew into a University-wide debate over the ability of the Student Assembly to regulate discrimination on campus.The Student Assembly Finance Commission temporarily froze funding to the group after the incident became public to allow the University Assembly to inquire into whether or not the group’s actions violated University policy. At the time, Chi Alpha’s actions were not prohibited and funding was restored, but the Codes and Judicial Committee of the U.A. proposed an “anti-discrimination clause” to allow reciprocal action in future incidents.When President Skorton reviewed the amended campus code for approval for last semester, he requested that a footnote protecting “free speech, freedom of association and religious freedom” be added to the anti-discrimination clause.The clause was ultimately removed because of those concerns, allowing the rest of the amendments made last semester to be passed without objection.Seperately, the Student Assembly took up the debate with the introduction of Resolution 44, which sought to curtail funding to groups that discriminate based on a set of protected classes, including gender and sexual identity.The S.A. approved Resolution 44 in late February. However, President Skorton wrote in a written response that groups that engage in such discrimination will still retain official University recognition and support.Skorton’s response to Resolution 44 also rejected the expansion of categories of non-discrimination, including height, ancestry, immigration status, religious practice, socioeconomic status and weight. He cited the University’s existing Codes and Judicial Committee policy on discrimination, which “bans all forms of legally prohibited discrimination in all University educational programs and activities and employment.”Meanwhile students opposed to the anti-discrimination clause brought to the table Resolution 62 — a “freedoms clause” that accused the original resolution of violating First Amendment rights.After much debate,  a compromise resolution was passed, which, according to S.A. Executive Vice President Nikhil Kumar ’11, sought to “insert a clause [in the S.A. Charter] about the conduct of student groups regarding the First Amendment [and] they also wanted it to … restrict certain groups’ ability to discriminate based on certain [types of] protected status.”  Specifically, Resolution 75 only restricts the conduct of those groups that receive their funding from the Student Activity Fee.Debate over these issues continues on a national scale, as the Supreme Court agreed on Dec. 7 to hear Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, a case that will decide whether a public law school may deny funding to a faith-based organization that shapes its voting membership around a set of core religious beliefs.

Original Author: Sun Staff